Northampton Town FC meeting the opposition.
On Saturday afternoon, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere Rovers travel to Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium to face a side who are in fine form.
The past week has provided Mellon with a chance to improve his team as there was no game last weekend. This may prove quite beneficial as The Whites have failed to win any of their last eight.
Ahead of the game, I spoke to ‘It’s all cobblers to me’ who discussed everything including last season’s final day automatic promotion upset.
Last season, Jon Brady’s Northampton Town side finished 4th in the League Two table. What are your thoughts when you look back on 2021-22 as a whole?
Barring the last day drama, the 2021/22 season should probably be seen as a success. Having been relegated, without any fuss, from League One the season before, to be so close to going back up at the first attempt is pretty good. Unfortunately for a lot of Cobblers fans, trying to put aside what happened on the final day is difficult to do.
This summer, eleven players were brought into the club either on loan or a permanent basis. It was also important that Sam Hoskins remained at the club as he is now top scorer with thirteen strikes. What are your thoughts on the summer window and what positions would you like to see strengthened in January?
It’s funny how other fans always perceive things differently to what we do. Sam Hoskins has long divided the social media fan base and there was never any danger of him leaving Sixfields in the summer. He signed a contract extension just last year which will see him into his 9th year as a Cobblers when it ends.
The summer window was pretty good as a whole. While we lost Liam Roberts (Middlesboro) and Fraser Horsfall (Stockport), we managed to retain Shaun McWilliams and bring in several good additions. The most notable was Danny Hylton. The former Luton striker promised lots but hasn’t managed to find his goalscoring boots with us yet. That’s why I think most Cobblers fans would say we need to strengthen up top in January. It might sound ridiculous saying that when you’ve got the league’s joint-top scorer in your ranks but Hoskins is a winger. If we can add a striker in January to share the goals with Sam we’ll be a real force.
Manager Jon Brady joined the club in 2016 when he took over Town’s U16 team, he was appointed first team gaffer in 2021. Thoughts on him, his playing style and his relationship with fans?
Jon’s relationship with the fans is the best we’ve ever had. Having spent most of his playing career in Northamptonshire with Rushden, Kettering and Brackley, he knows the community and really cares about what happens in it. At the start of last season he promised “bums off seats football” and while that doesn’t always happen, we are a much more attack minded team than we used to be. In regards to style, we look to get the ball up towards our danger men quickly and go from there. Sometimes we’re direct, sometimes we play keep ball. Brady tends to pick and choose his style based on who we’re playing. He certainly isn’t a one tactic man.
The Cobblers chairman is Kelvin Thomas, thoughts on him? If you could change anything about the club, what would it be?
Thomas is a businessman. There’s no getting away from that. I do believe he is a football man though and cares about the club. Yes, things could be better but we don’t owe anyone from outside the club money (all our debt is in the form of director loans) and we’re competitive on the field at the right end of League Two.
In terms of what I’d change, it would have to be sorting out the mess that surrounds our unfinished East Stand. It isn’t just the fact that the stand remains unfinished after 7 years, it’s the division it has caused amongst the fan base. The Supporters’ Trust are heavily at odds with the Chairman and owner over how the club should complete the stand. The club’s owners want to purchase the land next to the stadium, sell it for a profit to developers and use the money to pay off their director’s loans and finish the building work. Some fans don’t believe that they’ll do that though and there’s been a huge rift for the last couple of years. Right now a judicial review has been granted the go-ahead to look into the sale of land by the council to the football club. It won’t be heard for 18 months to 2 years and most fans just want the saga to be over.
If I could, I’d build a brand new stadium somewhere else and forget all about the nonsense of the last decade. Anyone got a spare billion?
29-year-old Sam Hoskins, who has been at the club for seven years, is Northampton Town’s top scorer as he has struck thirteen times this season. Who would you say are the other players to keep an eye on and where will the key battles be played out on Saturday afternoon?
Shaun McWilliams is one of our own and in the summer he had the opportunity to move on for free. He chose not to though and the 24 year old midfielder is having his best season in a Cobblers shirt to date. He’s a combative central midfielder who’s tenacious in the tackle and has found some form in front of goal in the last few weeks too. If you haven’t seen it, check out his goal against Bradford in our last game. It pretty much sums up his game at the moment and we’re loving watching him week in week out.
Also in midfield is Marc Leonard. The young Scotsman is loan to us from Brighton and it’s obvious that he’s a cut above League Two. His range of passing is terrific. If he plays, you’ll most likely see him coming deep to take the ball off the defenders and build attacks from the back.
Would you say that finishing in the top three positions, for automatic promotion, is a real possibility this season?
It’s certainly the aim. Rightly or wrongly, we feel we should be playing in League One this season. We’ve improved in key positions and most importantly have strengthened our squad depth. It was probably the one thing we lacked last year to see us over the line.
Score predictions for Saturday’s game? The last time the two club’s met was in March at The Sixfields Stadium as a late Tranmere comeback wasn’t enough to stop the scoreline finishing in the hosts’ favour.
With us being at home and having had a break due to concentrating on the league (that’s what I’m going with, stop laughing!) I’m feeling pretty confident about this one. You’re without your first choice central defenders and we’re the top scorers in the division. I’ll go with a 3-1 win for the Cobblers.
Thoughts on Tranmere? Micky Mellon’s side have failed to win any of their last seven and are currently positioned 12th. Where do you see them finishing in May?
Tranmere have been really sporadic the last two seasons. I remember when we met at Prenton Park last year it was 5th v 6th or something. We won and that started a run of poor results for you that meant you fell out of the promotion picture. It looks like the same pattern has repeated this year. You had a great run of 5 games where you won without conceding, but since then you haven’t won at all. I think you’ll probably end up in the top 10 but not threatening the playoffs unless you manage to find the form from early October and some consistency.
Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium. The last time Tranmere travelled here was in March as they were beaten 3-2.